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But I don’t know what to do with those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs.

I have always been an avid reader. I read fiction and nonfiction.  When I read fiction - It's almost a guarantee I am reading a romance novel.

Currently reading

Someone to Watch Over Me
Lisa Kleypas
Seize the Fire - Laura Kinsale I'm not quite sure what to say. This is my second Kinsale book, the first being "Flowers from the Storm." Like FftS, Seize the Fire was a long, arduous and often convoluted plot which ended in a powerfully emotional, tear-inducing, grab-you-by-the-gut-type of ending. The difference is that... with Flowers from the Storm, I felt as though the ends justified the means. In other words, as the reader, I really understood why it was absolutely necessary for Kinsale to take the readers along for the detailed, long, and complex story. Whereas, in Seize the Fire, I didn't feel that way.

It was just... heavy. And sometimes really difficult to follow. Complexity and angst is awesome - I love that stuff. But in this case it just felt superfluous. Either way... it was still mostly ok. I did enjoy parts of it immensely. And I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.
Winter's Heat - Denise Domning Yay! I love Medieval romances, and now that I've gotten through most of Patricia Ryan's back list, I'm happy to have found another author whose writing talents and historical knowledge I can appreciate. I love this book and all of its characters, and it was a good introduction to the world of this series.

I especially liked this heroine, because she was strong-willed and intelligent, and yet still behaved in a manner that was realistic for her time period.

I knew I was going to like her early on in the story when she said this:

"I know nothing of being a wife, but have learned much about the running and maintenance of an estate. It may be that you will find my manner too straightforward for your tastes, but, my Lord, it is just that - my manner. Would that I die before I give up that part of me."

This is a story about an arranged marriage between a very reluctant hero and heroine, that eventually becomes true love - one of my favorite themes in the romance genre. Right from the start these two characters had some hot chemistry, but it took time and patience for that to become anything more. In fact, their interactions at first are quite painful, and they clash in many ways. It's only until they begin to open up to one another that past hurts are revealed and subsequently begin to heal. At one point, my heart nearly broke as the hero wants to be close to his wife, he says "What do we have servants for if you do all their work? Did you not just say you carried Graistan's good in your heart? Am I not Graistan? I have nothing to do and would greatly enjoy your company."

Watching as the hero waffled between hard and soft, anger and pain, warrior and lover - it was very sweet, and totally endeared me to him.

Also, he says this at one point, "By God's cock!" which made me laugh out loud.

The historical detail is very well done, but it's so beautifully interwoven into the story that it never feels like you're reading anything but a novel. Highly recommend!
The Duchess War - Courtney Milan This one was a strange read for me, because I really enjoyed the prequel, [b:The Governess Affair|13190596|The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5)|Courtney Milan|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1363009352s/13190596.jpg|18371803]. This one, however, had a somewhat wall-papery feel to it. I couldn't shake the feeling that the author was trying to cram random historical references down the readers' collective throats.

See, the characters are talking about this book that I totally looked up on Wiki and so I know it was totally cutting edge in this time period.


See, these characters were totally ahead of their time regarding scientific concepts we now take for granted as ever having been controversial. I know because I did some serious scientific research for this.

Further, the scenes involving the three "brothers sinister" together, and their rich widowed female friend, felt completely out of place. Again, it seemed as though the characters were young, hip, twenty-somethings from 2013 who were transplanted into a Victorian era.

I don't know. The story was good. The writing was solid. But I have a feeling this one will be forgettable. It was... underwhelming.

Light of Day

Light of Day - This book was very dated, but very enjoyable. Lila and Samuel were likeable characters. A good, quick read, and it packed a an emotional punch.
A Lady Awakened - Cecilia Grant I enjoyed parts of this, but disliked others.

Theo is a man who has been sent to his family's country estate in Sussex to 'reform' in a sense. For the most part, he is unremarkable. I read him as a character who has a serious lack of self-esteem, although he generally puts up a good front of confidence.

Martha is a recent widow who cares very deeply about the humanity of all people, which the author portrays in her selfless care and concern for the education and well-being of her servants, tenants and their families. She is very proper, and even a bit stuffy. Indeed, this is a perfect example of an starchy-heroine-gets-unstarched. When her husband leaves her without heir and without a dower to support herself, she is devastated. Not for her own lack of support (she has an invitation to go and live with her brother), but because without an heir, her husband's estate will fall into the hands of his younger brother, a man remembered in the area for his predatory actions towards the female servants of the house. Martha resolves that, one way or another, she must protect the people for whom she cares so deeply. One way she sets about to accomplish this is to get with child - in the hopes it might be a son - who she can pass of as her late husband's issue. Then she learns about her new neighbor, who has a slight reputation for his wantonness. And this very proper widow makes a very improper proposition.

And so begins a very odd relationship between Theo and Martha, which slowly unfolds and develops very naturally and realistically.

This author puts us deeply into the characters' psyches - letting us read their thoughts and feelings as if we were thinking and feeling them ourselves. This, interspersed with Theo's slow ascent towards a greater understanding of himself, and his realization of his capability as a landowner and farmer. And Martha's ascent into a greater understanding of herself as a woman and a lover.

Truly, this story shows how two partners can fulfill in one another each one's missing parts. Martha provides Theo with her strengths - intellectual companionship and the practical advice he needs to run his estates. Theo provides Martha with his strengths - awakening her to the joy that can be had from loosening her stays (literally and figuratively), and showing her that there is nothing wrong with needing and wanting another person.

The romance itself was beautiful. I almost rated this three stars, but in retrospect, I have little to criticize in the execution of this story. Primarily, it is laborious to get through. And while the writing was excellent, it didn't seem to have the smooth flow that I tend to enjoy in a well-written romance. Plus, there were lengthy technical passages that got a tad boring. I admit, there were parts I had skim through simply because I was completely bored with them.

All in all, I wouldn't read this one again. Time will tell if it is a memorable read or not.
Reforming Lord Ragsdale - Carla Kelly Need I say more? This was my first read by Carla Kelly. She was an author that was suggested to me many times by my many GR friends, and I can definitely see why. The woman can write!

The hero, John Staples, Lord Ragsdale, is a Marquess. The second son who never expected to become the heir, John is a bit of a nonconformist as far as Marquesses go. When we meet him, he is a slacker. He is indolent, frivolous, and completely ignorant of the real world and real problems. He sails through his priviledged life, wiling away the hours with his mistress, his club, drinking, and spending his overwhelming wealth on whatever absurdities will amuse him at that particular moment. But John has a heart. Although hidden below his superficial facade, it his kind heart and sense of morality that cause him to come into possession of an indentured servant, Irishwoman Emma Costello. To make matters worse, because of some incidents from his past, John also hates the Irish.

Emma is a level-headed young woman who has known a lot of hardship and strife. When she comes into Lord Ragsdale's employ, she quickly realizes that his life is a complete mess. She sets about to correct that situation - to 'reform' Lord Ragsdale - and help him reach his full potential. Emma sees his potential, even though John cannot.

What I loved most about this story was how much time was spent showing the reader the building relationship between the two characters. There was no need for any leaps of faith or stretching realty. The build-up was slow, but necessarily so. By the time I got to the fourth quarter of the book, I just wanted to see them together. It seemed so natural and perfect.

Part of what makes this novel so special is Carla Kelly's incredible talent for getting into the heads of her characters. Truly, I think the reason why this relationship seemed so natural is because the reader was with the characters at every cognitive step forward. It was adorable how John took such pleasure in making Emma happy, even when he was not consciously aware of why he wanted to see her so happy. The reader could easily see the building love and respect even when the characters were still unaware.

This book is totally clean. And while I normally prefer to have a little heat in my romance, it made complete sense for it to be absent from this story.

Highly recommend.
The Indiscretion - Judith Ivory The first half of this book - loved it. As I was reading I thought finally a book that lift me out of my slump! But no... then the second half came a long and it just kind of died. The heroine became way too prissy, and the author kept up the characters' willful stubbornness up for far too long. I kept getting to points in the book where I was like "Oh ok, now finally they will break and show their true feelings." Nope. As the reader, I felt like kept getting the fact that these two just didn't get along drilled into me over and over again. OK, ok, I get it - they're both outrageously stubborn and competitive. It got to the point where I seriously began to stop caring whether they got together or not.

I liked Sam. Wasn't too fond of Liddy, especially in the latter half of the book.

I gotta say, too that I was highly disappointed with the pregnancy. I felt like that was the impetus for the heroine to finally relent and admit her feelings for the hero. I didn't mind that the heroine became pregnant... but I wanted her to admit her love for the hero BEFORE she found out she was pregnant... AND before she found out he was disgustingly rich. Prior to finding out that information, she was more than willing to abandon him and be mean to him at every turn. I felt bad for poor Sam. I also did not care for the 'contractual' marriage, and then having the heroine walk out on it to assert her independence. I didn't want it to have gotten to that point. They both should have been willing to admit their feelings long before it came to that point. It was frustrating. And it kind of made me question that reality of their HEA.

But over all it was well written, and despite my issues - the book had me riveted. I could not put it down. And the first half of the book with them on the moor was seriously hot... great build-up of tension, and awesome love scenes.
Chasing Rainbows - Victoria Lynne This book is everything a good Western historical romance should be! I wavered between 4 and 5 stars on this one. Ultimately, I chose 5 because it was riveting, and I loved the way the book was ended.

Annabel Lee Foster is notorious as "Outlaw Annie." She is the only female to run with the "Mundy Gang," a group feared throughout the West for its increasingly bold string of robberies. Rough around the edges, Annie is distrustful of everyone, especially men. She is about to be hung, when Jake Moran passes through town.

Jake Moran is a Civil War Vet who now earns his living playing poker - and he's damn good at it, too. He is a wanderer who is seemingly just trying to figure out where he fits in the world. He also believes that finding the Mundy Gang will be the ticket to clearing his name, and he hopes that sticking close to Annie will bring the gang straight to him.

So, after saving Annie from the noose, Jake offers to escort her to Cooperton, Colorado.

And their journey begins.

I did have one issue with the story (And this is a true spoiler, so don't read it if you haven't read this book! Seriously, it's nothing bad enough that would have prevented me from reading the book, just a little annoyance):
I did not like how Jake reacted after finding the note from 'Pete' in Annie's saddle bag. It seemed to me that after everything they had been through and shared, he would have questioned her about it immediately. I didn't like that he suddenly acted cold towards her with absolutely no explanation, and how she just readily accepted his behavior as 'oh he's just having a bad couple of of weeks.' It seemed out of character for BOTH of them. Now, I understand that the author needed to have that conflict so that they could have the big reuinion where he realizes the depth of his feelings for her. However, Instead of the silent cold-shoulder treatment, I wished Jake would have confronted her, and had a big argument ensue from that. It would have seemed more in line with their personalities But, in the end, I was glad to see how remorseful he was over having treated her that way.

This is a great read if you're in the mood for a good Western! Accurate historical facts are blended very well into the story. A great romance with a great HEA.
The Sleeping Night - Barbara Samuel
Isaiah High and Angel Corey had been close friends since they were babies. Although they lived in the South under Jim Crow (he is black and she is white), Angel's father was unconventional and progressive for his time in that he was friendly to the blacks in Gideon, TX, and opened his store to them. He also maintained a close friendship with Isaiah's father, forged on the battle fields of WWI, and unbroken by the South's segregated and racist society.

As the children grew older, however, their parents recognized the very real dangers that existed if they maintained contact, and so they were forbidden from interacting once they hit adolescence. This could not prevent Angel and Isaiah from continuing to love one another from afar. And when Isaiah joined the Army just before WWII, they wrote letters back and forth consistently throughout the duration of the War. The reader gets to read these letters at the beginning and end of each chapter, and they add a rich, descriptive depth to the events as they are currently happening in the story.

Isaiah returns to Gideon, TX, just days after Angel's father passes away, and they strike up a friendship again, despite the dangers and the warnings from their allies. Isaiah is bitter and jaded from the horrors he witnessed in Europe, and he's determined that he will not stay in Gideon. But he cannot bring himself to leave Angel, and finally the two acquiesce to the long-suppressed feelings they have harbored for one another. But now they must face the danger that lurks in the town of Gideon, where many of the residents would rather see both of them dead before they saw a white woman be with a black man.

This book is richly detailed, putting the reader in the setting. Vivid secondary characters beautifully complement the plot and the primary characters. The letters between Angel and Isaiah during the war were a wonderful addition, and beautifully written. This book deals with a lot of spiritual and religious elements, but is not inspirational, per se. There is one sex scene, and it is not graphic, but is described in detail. There is a lot of talk about God in this story, mainly as the characters wonder how God could allow so much evil to be propagated in its name.

I actually wavered between 4 and 5 stars on this, only because - despite the fact that the writing was excellent, the plot solid, and the story lovely, I never felt quite connected to the relationship between the characters. Sometimes the romance itself took a backseat to the overarching racial and WWII-era anti-Semitic themes.

But ultimately I rated it five stars, because the story deserves it. I would recommend this to anyone who likes interracial romances, or just racial themes in general, or anyone who likes WWII era romance, because - WOW - the historical detail is so well-described and the reader can really place herself in the shoes of the characters. I could really feel the dangers and the emotions as the events unfolded, and this is the type of quality writing I have come to expect from this author.

I actually used the highlight feature in this book! :-) which I rarely do. But here are some of my favorite quotes that I highlighted:

And standing here now in the hot sun, he had to tell himself the truth or be damned. He hadn't come home to see his mama or deliver Gudren or any of the other things he'd told himself he had to do. He had come home because Angel was here. Every road always led back to her somehow.
At seven, Isaiah had told his father he intended to marry Angel Corey. Jordan had stopped dead in the middle of the bridge and knelt down to stare in his son's eyes. He gripped Isaiah's arms so hard there had been bruises the next day. "No you ain't, boy. Don't you ever say it again. Ever. Hear?"
Something terrible had happened, he thought. "Angel," he said gently, holding the umbrella over her. "What are you doing, girl?"
She swiveled her face around to him and the stillness he had thought to be some kind of pitiable defeat showed instead to be a clear and burning fury. With an expression of great disdain, she lifted her chin at the porch.
Isaiah looked. In red paint on the floor of the porch, someone had scrawled "nigger lover" in letters two feet high. A chill touched him.
How could you carry the inside of a person with you and not call them a friend, no matter what the rules said?
"Seems to me people are mean or evil because they're scared, mostly, or in pain, or afraid they're going to lose something."
Best friend. That's what he'd told her last night. You couldn't hate your best friend. And she was that, all right, his best friend in the world. But a man didn't want to do things to a friend that holding her for five minutes this morning had brought to his mind. A man didn't think about slipping the old, tired robe from the body of his friend, thinking of touching the fresh supple skin below. A man didn't ache all day with hunger for a friend.
He kissed her. "Since we were babies, Angel," he said hoarsely, "since we built that tree house, every day during the war, always, always, always I loved you."
Allie's Moon - Alexis Harrington Althea (Allie) Ford is a spinster who has resigned herself to a life of caring for her sickly little sister after her mother's suicide and her unkind father's death. Known by the townsfolk of Decker Prairie, Oregon as the 'Crazy Ford Sisters,' the two young women live a life of virtual isolation out on their untended farm, where they are haunted by painful ghosts from the past.

Jefferson Hicks is an ex-Sheriff who descends into a deep depression and alcoholic haze after shooting a teenaged boy in self-defense. Having lost his sobriety, his wife, and his will to live, Jeff becomes the town's #1 derelict and most undesirable citizen. Then one day, the new Sheriff arrests Jeff for stealing and egg, and offers him an opportunity to work for Allie on the Ford farm in lieu of spending a month in jail.

As Jeff sobers up and cleans up (both figuratively and literally), he grows closer to Allie. Soon, his old self reemerges and his vitality and self-respect return. As Allie begins to see the goodness in Jeff, as well as herself, a slow-burning, yet intense passion and love develop between them.

Outside forces are working against them, however, and Allie and Jeff must hold on to the strength they have found in one another if their happiness is to survive.

One of my very favorite elements in a good romance is a tortured and downtrodden hero and heroine, who have been badly burned by their pasts but find strength in one another. Fortunately, this is also the type of character Alexis Harrington seems to really enjoy creating. And she does it very well. I loved Allie and Jeff, and I loved that they leaned on and supported one another when neither had anybody else in the world.

Another aspect of Ms. Harrington's writing that I love is her ability to create deliciously thick sexual tension that leads up to very emotional and explosive love scenes, and yet still give the whole story a sense of purity and sweetness that really warms the reader's heart.

Allie's Moon is the fourth book by this author I've read, and although it certainly isn't my favorite (Homeward Hearts takes that prize), it is still a very satisfying read.

Friends to Forever (Harlequin Romance)

Friends to Forever - Nikki Logan 2.5 stars... This book felt more like a PSA about addiction than a romance. The concept for the story was really good, but the majority of the book was spent telling the readers (through dialogue, mostly) what had happened to the characters in the previous ten years, as they rehash all of their old hurts and problems.

That said, it still kept me interested and I wanted to see what happened - which was why I wound up finishing the book. I decided to read it because I'm a sucker for the 'childhood-best-friends-turn-lovers' theme. This story could have been so much more than it was, but it only just grazed the surface.

It did make me really want to visit the southwestern coast of Australia, though.

Secret Thunder (Perigueux Family Series #1)

Secret Thunder (Perigueux Family Series #1) - Patricia Ryan Luke de Perigueux is known as the "Black Dragon" for his brutality and ferocity in battle, but it is not who he truly is inside. One of the most infamous and most feared of all the invading Norman soldiers, Luke keeps his bloodlust alive through the use of a special blend of herbs. He is distressed by his life and always afraid of the 'beast' that he believes lives inside of him. Finally, one night, when Luke believes he has committed a heinous crime, he retreats to a monastery to cleanse his soul and stave off his addiction to the herbs. After several months of solitude, Luke's overlord, Lord Alberic, grants him a farmstead called Haukleah... and the Lady of Haukleah, a Saxon widow, as a wife.

Faithe of Haukeleah is a widow - her Saxon husband having been killed off by illness after leaving to fight the Norman Invasion. She finds out that her ancestral home and farmstead will be handed to the "Black Dragon" - one of the most feared of the Norman soldiers. She can stay at Haukleah only if she agrees to marry its new Norman Lord, Luke de Perigueux. Although Faithe is loathe to marry a man who has killed so many of her people, her only alternative would be to leave her beloved home - which is an option she refuses to consider. Reluctantly, she agrees to the marriage. Her previous marriage had been pleasant, but it was not a love match. Faithe certainly does not expect her second marriage to be much different... but there is something about Luke that draws her to him. Now if only she could convince some of her most trusted staff of Luke's true nature...

This is a story of how love can heal. It's very much a 'beauty and the beast' tale. It was well told and very, very passionate. Faithe was an interesting heroine because - although she had not been in love with her first husband - she had a pleasant and enjoyable sex life before the hero. In fact, the heroine is quite lusty. This was a refreshing change from the usual fare. Luke is so warm and kind and compassionate, but he hides this 'true self' behind his brutal soldier facade. He longs to have a normal life and a loving marriage but does not believe he is capable. Luke lives in fear of 'the beast' that he believes dwells within him. As he begins to fall in love with Faithe, he longs to protect her from this 'beast.' Faithe helps him to see his true self, and loves him despite all of his faults and his past wrongs.

The main conflict in this book does not become apparent right away. The hero and heroine fall in love early on in the book, and for a while in the middle, the story dragged a bit. However, once the primary conflict comes into play, the book really took off again and the pace picked up. As always, Ms. Ryan is awesome with her characterizations. The secondary characters in this book really stood out. A major secondary character in this story is Luke's younger brother, Alex, who is the hero in the next book of this duet - Wild Wind. I adored Alex, and am really looking forward to reading his story!

Although this book was not as excellent as Ms. Ryan's other Medieval Romances that I've read, it was still a great read, and well worth my time!
On the Island - Tracey Garvis-Graves I bought this book shortly after the buzz began. The plot is what sold me. The hype is what kept me from reading it until now. So glad I read it. It is written in first person, but the perspective switches back and forth between the hero and heroine.

This book sucked me in. I couldn't put it down. Reading about their survival on the island was intriguing. I had a discussion with my sister today about this plot, and she was a little skeeved out by the age difference, but... in the context of being stranded on the island... the romance really worked, and the age thing was not an issue. Their love felt completely believable despite the ages. There is no social construct on the island telling them that they are incompatible. I thought the author realistically and thoughtfully handled the obvious challenges the couple faced after returning to civilization.

If I have one complaint, it is only that the wrap=up and ending seemed a little too treacle-sweet, but overall I didn't mind that enough to let it affect my impression of the overall book.

The writing is good - sharp and to the point. This is a story that really grabs the reader, and has the perfect balance of narrative and dialogue.
Libertine's Kiss - Judith James Excellent read. A solid 4 stars. I got completely immersed, and it kept my rapt attention from beginning to end. It was the kind of book I read every free moment I could.

Firstly, I would like to say that Broken Wing by this author is one of my top favorite romance novels. And this book definitely had some of the things I love about Judith James' books - an eloquent and flowing writing style, and her ability to convey very deep emotions through the use of dialogue and the description of physical sensations.

The book takes place during the English Civil War, an unusual era for a romance novel; which is another reason why I liked it. It also prompted me to do some research, and I found that the author includes many accurate historical facts, including the use of King Charles II and his mistress, Barbara Palmer, as well as other true-to-life historical figures, as secondary characters in the book.

The story begins during the time of Oliver Cromwell's rule, and the King's exile from England. Elizabeth Walters finds William de Veres bleeding on her doorstep. She takes him in, tends his wounds, and allows him to seduce her. They make love, and then he leaves. It is then that the story takes us into these characters' back-stories. We find out they were childhood friends, and first sweethearts. A bit of a star-crossed Romeo-and-Juliet-type thing, since they were both young and separated by being on two different sides of the Civil War. But during this one night William doesn't recognize Elizabeth, and again they do not come into contact for years.

When they finally do, the war is over. William, now Lord Rivers and a very close confidant to the King, vows to help her gain back some of the land she lost during the war. It is then that he recognizes Elizabeth both as his best childhood friend/love and the woman he spent the one night with when he was wounded (who he was unable to shake from his thoughts). William is now a notorious libertine and rake of the very worst sort. He moves from woman to woman to woman without any care beyond the physical pleasure in the unions. He also drinks heavily. But Elizabeth is looking for her friend William - who she knows is still there underneath the debauched Lord Rivers. William finds himself drawn to Elizabeth in a way he has never been with any other woman in his life, but he is unsure if he can ever be what she needs him to be.

This was a fantastic story. In the end, I think I wanted more from William than I got. There is an HEA, but I wanted to see more of a genuine transformation... a change in William beyond just loving the heroine. I really love reformed rake stories, even when the rake is as debauched and licentious as William is, but it needs to be written realistically. This one was... but only to a point.

One book I read that did this plot extremely well is Lucien's Fall. I kept drawing comparisons between these two books as I was reading Libertine's Kiss because the two heroes are so much alike - tortured, devlishly handsome, using women and drink to cover their inner pain. But in Lucien's Fall, the hero went through a more genuine reformation that was not solely due to the heroine's love, and which felt more believable.

Either way, Libertine's Kiss is a fantastic read, and I loved the characters, and the historical detail was fabulous.
Happily Ever After - Tanya Anne Crosby Heroine exceedingly annoying. Hero kinda skeezy and creepy. Made it 35% before skimming the rest.
The Last Bride in Ballymuir (Ballymuir, #1) - Dorien Kelly Writing was ok, but the story was just kind of dull. Two very important conflicts, that could have been explored much further, were resolved really quickly and easily, while the rest of the book just dragged out. I made it 60% before I threw in the towel and skimmed the rest.